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Explore Spinalonga: Review of “The Island” by Victoria Hislop

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If there is a book that can take you on an engaging journey through time and culture, Victoria Hislop’s “The Island” is an inspired choice.

With an engaging narrative, the author invites us to explore the beauty and tragedies of a small Greek island, caught by the waves of the Aegean Sea: Spinalonga.

Context and Environment:

Hislop paints a lively and engaging picture of the Greek landscape, drawing from his personal experience in Crete. The island of Spinalonga, a colony of lepers in the first half of the last century, becomes the heart of history, highlighting the strength and fragility of the human condition in an isolated and suggestive environment.

When I read the book I recognised the island where I live. Hislop has Crete in her heart and I feel it from her descriptions and images. As here, for example:

In the fading light she saw Sofia in the far end, towards the prow. She was sitting alone, her small travel bag at her feet, looking across the twinkling lights of Iraklion and the vaulted arches of the great arsenal built by the Venetians. The pristine walls of the solid sixteenth-century fortress which stood guard over the harbour could have been built yesterday.”

From Hislop’s words, I feel and recognize Cretan sounds, images, colours:

It was a hotter than ever August, with a fierce Meltemi that blew the roses flat and sent shirts flying from washing lines like giant white gulls. In the afternoon, everything but the wind was subdued. It continued to bang doors and rattle windows whole people slept in shuttered rooms to escape the heat of the sun.”


The protagonists of “The Island” are fascinating and well-developed. Their connection with Spinalonga and the surrounding community creates an emotional bond that captures the reader’s attention.


The plot swings between past and present, interwoven stories of love, loss and survival. The discovery of a family’s past and its connection with Spinalonga adds an element of mystery and suspense, keeping the reader attentive until the last page.

Themes and Symbolism:

Hislop explores universal themes such as disease, isolation and the strength of the family. Spinalonga becomes a powerful symbol of resilience and hope.

Writing Style:

The author uses a delicate and engaging prose and captures the essence of Greek culture and the unique atmosphere of Spinalonga. Detailed descriptions and careful use of language add depth to the narrative.

Advantages and Disadvantages:

Among the merits of the book stands Hislop’s ability to bring the island and its inhabitants to life. However, some parts may be dense for those looking for a lighter read.

Cultural and Social Observations:

Hislop offers a sensitive look at life in Crete, touching topics such as leprosy that were stigmatized in society. The authentic representation of local traditions makes this novel a valuable testimony to Greek, and in particular Cretan, culture.

The Island” is an exciting journey through the heart of Greece, and combines past and present into an engaging plot. Lovers of history and culture will find this irresistible reading, while those seeking a deep reflection on human ties will remain fascinated by the island of Spinalonga.

In short, “The Island” is an unforgettable literary journey that will take you into a unique emotional and cultural dimension.

The author

Victoria Hislop is a famous British writer, born in 1959 in Bromley, United Kingdom. She studied English at the University of Oxford and worked in publishing, public relations and as a journalist before embarking on a career as a writer. She is married and has two children.

Hislop has become famous for her novels that explore cultural and historical topics, often set in iconic places. Among his most famous works is  this book, “The Island”, which reached the top of the sales charts and received critical praise for its engaging narrative and ability to transport readers to fascinating historical places and periods.

With a delicate and engaging prose, Victoria Hislop has captured the attention of a wide international audience, offering a unique window into the cultures and traditions of the world through its engaging stories.

Sed vel nisi risus

the book

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